What began as a list to remind me of exercises that I enjoy turned into a really fun hour, and something I thought might make you smile too. Here’s a quick and dirty peek into my secret notebook. Let me know what you think.
I got a tattoo of a deer today.
Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.
I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.
But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?
I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.
Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.
So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.
Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.
Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.
“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.
It made my heart soar.
So, why the tattoo?
I guess there’s several facets to that answer.
- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.
- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.
- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.
- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.
If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.
That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.
Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.
Every week I take a day to myself, Melissa Monday, where I journal, organize, maintain, and do whatever the hell I want. It helps me refocus and reconnect.
This Monday I sat down and wrote out my intentions for the week. Rereading it, I have a feeling that’s how I’ll want many of my weeks to look. Sometimes I forget the big picture, and I’ve recently started physically writing down my Big Picture, be it for a day, an event, a relationship, or in this case, a week.
Without further ado:
Intenions for This Week/Big Picture:
To chip away at my Portland/life goals in an efficient, simple, minimal way. To go at an efficient but relaxed pace. To stick to original plans, but yield when doors close and remain flexible to changes and unexpected happenings–to live in the present moment and find the humor/niceties in every scenario, every moment.
To wake up grateful for the exact scenario, recounting my blessings, and never allow doubt or fear to guide my decisions.
To turn off my brain and act from my intuition.
To not fear missing out. To remember and focus only on the moment’s top priority, whatever that may be, and let all else disappear, knowing that I have enough, have always had enough, and will always have enough.
To remember that I don’t own anyone or any thing and never will, so therefore I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
To not second-guess or worry about any decisions I made. To make decisions based on love and inspiration and let my complete and unjustified faith in myself and the universe meet me halfway. To know that it always will, every time. That all I can do is the best I can do, and the universe will show me what I need to learn.
To remember that I’m not missing out on anything.
To help others when I see the opportunity and have enough to give (always.) To remember life is lived off paper.
To remember that I’m not perfect and can never be, but that I can be perfectly and unabashedly myself.
To make plans and set goals but not get angry or disappointed when (not if) I don’t get to all of them.
To release all expectations of myself and those I come in contact with. To be patient and kind to myself and others. To let doors open and close, never using force, always asserting what I feel, think, and want, but never trying to change a scenario, always yielding and facilitating the opening and closing of doors. Keeping in mind that “when one door closes, another one opens.” Not giving my power away or letting things get past my mental “mudroom”, never reacting angrily to a door closing, but rather taking a moment before speaking or acting to think about what other doors I could walk through instead. Remembering that I have enough, do enough, and am enough. That my presence is enough. That existing is enough. That everything positive that happens is merely the icing on top of my cake, and that anything “negative” that happens can never take away from the fact that I have had the best cake ever. The cake is always enough.
To use my tools for good (brain, computer, relationships, etc).
To work when it’s time to work, and to rest when it’s time to rest. To let everything breathe–to act when action is required, and to hold the pose when there’s nothing to be done.
To remain equanimous–to break the link between feeling tones & craving; to be with the pleasant without chasing it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it.
To forgive myself when I “mess up”, without delay. To appreciate challenges and “setbacks” as opportunities to use my creativity and grow, to practice these ideas. To know that its this contrast that makes life beautiful and fun and interesting and that, no matter how much I whine or complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a necessary part of the game.
To remember that it’s just a game, and to play for fun and not points.
To always value real, in-person connection above all else and to communicate and share ideas and goods as often as possible. Daily. Always look for opportunities to help others, dig for ways I can serve them, and not how they can help me or what I can get from them.
Laugh as often as possible.
Fuel my body with nourishing food.
Exert myself, but don’t over-exert myself.
Allow silence. Don’t try to fill every second.
To listen when others speak, and really hear them.
To address issues immediately, before they have a chance to fester and explode.
To be detached but warmly engaged with the world. To appreciate but to know I don’t NEED anything or any body.
To give only when I want to give, never to seek or need a response or reaction, and know that what I gave is enough. To remember that whatever anyone else gives or does is enough. To be confident yet vulnerable. Taking healthy risks.
To treat friends as family; to remember that an argument, disagreement or bump in the road doesn’t mean you break up; to move on with positive forward facing momentum and keep my eye on the big picture of what’s good for the whole team. To remember that a discussion never has to be an argument–that an issue never has to be a problem, that differences in opinion can be discussed in a relaxed, honest way and then moved on from.
To re-read “in the flow” days if (when) I feel disconnected, or talk with someone who gets me, or read my “balance” list and get back on track when I fall off.
To create every day. To find inspiration around me.
What are your intentions?
‘A ship in port is safe, but this is not what ships are built for. - Grace Hopper
There is nothing inherently good or bad about a hammer.
It is useless if it’s left in the drawer–paintings left to collect dust in boxes, Ikea dressers disassembled in their original packaging, a calendar lying unhung halfway through it’s calendar year.
It is only a tool, and it is useful only when it is being used. It can be used in so many ways, but there’s only a few things it was made to do: drive home nails, take out nails, smash things. Of course, you could also carry it around and use it to knock on people’s doors with, as a back-scratcher, to play catch with.
But those last few aren’t ideal. They’d get the job done in each of those last few scenarios, but in an extremely inefficient way.
There’s a few ideas here I’ve been mulling over that seem to apply to all tools:
1. Tools are made to be used.
A pot was made to be cooked in.
Paintbrushes were made to paint with.
Running shoes were made to run in.
Tools are only useful when used. Don’t let them sit and gather dust.
2. Tools are made to be used in a specific way.
You could use a speaker as a chair, or you could sit on a chair.
You could use a butter knife to cut a watermelon, or you could use it to spread butter.
You could use your desk as a space to write a book, or as a dumping ground for wrinkled clothing.
Each option would work, but which one is a pleasure and which one causes frustration? Impatience? Using a tool for its intended use makes things simpler and more efficient.
3. Tools are neither inherently good or bad.
You could use a hammer to hang some shelves… or you could use it as a murder weapon.
You could use your iphone to share photos of your creations… or you could use it to waste time refreshing your facebook feed.
You could use your legs to propel yourself in a swimming pool… or you could kick your neighbor.
You could use your brain to empower you, or you could use it to produce degrading thoughts about yourself.
You could use your hands to create a sculpture, or you could use them to pick at imperfections.
4. Tools are everywhere
Almost everything is a tool. That is to say, there is a way to use it. From literal tools like a wrench, to everyday items like combs, to every part of your body and your mind.. these things are here to enhance your experience of life, if you use them, and you use them for good and not evil.
The value lies in the usage. The user decides how to use the tool. Therefore, the value is created by the user. The decision, the power is in how you choose to use the tool.
Use the tools at hand to enhance your life and the lives around you.